From Detroit, Michigan, Discipline return for their fifth studio album, Captives of the Wine Dark Sea, released on their new label Laser’s Edge. There are few bands that can give me a buzz of anticipation for their new release, but Discipline are definitely in that category, although I must confess that I am a relative newcomer to the band, discovering them via their astounding set at the Summer’s End festival in 2015, and I made no secret of declaring them the band of the weekend in my review at the time. That said, it is unfathomable why they have not been able to build a wider audience in this country; with a combination of superb song writing, heartfelt lyrics wonderfully sung by keyboardist Matthew Parmenter, a rhythm section to die for and a top quality guitarist, what is not to like?
It has been six years since Discipline’s last album, the highly acclaimed To Shatter All Accord, but it has been worth the wait as they present a new body of work which drips class; weaving their beautifully crafted music around the stories they wish to tell, exciting, emotional with touches of melancholy, although there is a positive and bright feel here also. Their influences abound on this release, Van der Graaf Generator and King Crimson to name but two, but these are used as a starting point and Discipline have gone on to develop and forge their own unique sound, Matthew describing the album as “an escape to ameliorate the workday world.”
The album is held to seven tracks which add up to a perfectly paced forty-five minutes, veteran producer Terry Brown (Rush, Fate’s Warning) providing a mix which keeps the instruments clear and identifiable with a good balance, accompanied by top quality performances from the entire band. To start things off, the 9-minute The Body Yearns opens brightly with piano and Matthew’s vocals weaving the story. Half way through there is a change to a slower, almost sinister pace before returning to the original melody of the song. In what seems no time at all we get the second track, Life Imitates Art, which was used as the promotional lead. Here we are into VdGG territory with stabbing keyboards and driving drums, but holding it together is the wonderful melody and a very catchy chorus. This is a song that I have found going around in my head, such is the catchiness of the hook contained within it.
There are two instrumentals here, giving the band the opportunity to flex their mighty musical muscles. S is the first, appearing to take some inspiration from classical pieces with the keyboards to the fore, counterpointed by the guitar adding some great Crimson-like touches to build the tension before the flow breaks up to become somewhat unsettling. The longer track of the two, the more piano led The Roaring Game, fairly bubbles along, ebbing and flowing with the band adding musical textures along the way; this is what Discipline do so well. Love Songs is almost an anti love song with Matthew pleading, “don’t speak to me of love songs”, later singing “I just want to be alone” to a bluesy ragtime, with at times a Beatles feel, Chris Herin adding some great guitar, sparse but just what and where it is needed. Here There is No Soul is nearly a straight ahead rock song with a catchy melody, but half way through the focus begins to change with the guitar and organ giving it a more “proggy” feel.
The final track, Burn The Fire Upon The Rocks, is a fourteen and a half minute mini-epic, a perfect demonstration on how to present the long song art form. Made up of some seven parts or movements, it feels like a cohesive whole, each flowing into the next with no obvious separation between them. This is more guitar led with the keys in support, Herin stabbing out the chords to at times give a bouncy, almost Santana-like feel. As the vocals join in things get jazzier with the piano taking the lead, Matthew singing the lyrics with an almost longing tone. The song continues to evolve with Herin’s getting the chance to demonstrate his top quality playing, the whole thing held together by the rhythm section of Paul Dzendzel and Mathew Kennedy who respond to the changes in tempo effortlessly. As the song comes to a close, the guitar and keyboards are almost duelling, accompanied by the driving rhythms.
It is interesting to note that the contributions of Chris Herin (from the band Tiles) have enhanced Discipline’s sound, considering that the guitar of Jon Preston Bouda, who is pursuing other interests at present, was a key element of he band, this is a fine achievement.
Captives of the Wine Dark Sea is a thoughtfully created piece of work, a fine example of modern progressive music and another excellent addition to Discipline’s canon of work. We all need some Discipline in our lives, and there is no better way to start than here: go listen and buy it.
01. The Body Yearns (9:25)
02. Life Imitates Art (4:19)
03. S (4:11)
04. Love Songs (3:43)
05. Here There is No Soul (3:20)
06. The Roaring Game (6:11)
07. Burn the Fire Upon the Rocks (14:32)
Total Time – 45:41
Matthew Parmenter – Vocals, Keyboards
Paul Dzendzel – Drums
Mathew Kennedy – Bass Guitar
Chris Herin – Lead Guitar
Record Label: Laser’s Edge
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Download
Date of Release: 7th July 2017